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REL594: Imagining Your Future

One of the most popular undergraduate courses at Stanford is entitled "Designing Your Life" - which implies that life, in fact, can be designed or planned out ahead of time.

One of the most popular undergraduate courses at Stanford is entitled "Designing Your Life" - which implies that life, in fact, can be designed or planned out ahead of time. More often than not, however, life is not linear, but probably not totally random either. Utilizing the methods of "design thinking" this course will assist students in reflecting on how their lives might unfold, what choices they face in the future - in college and afterward - and how they might navigate those choices. What does it mean to come to "know thyself ?" Before one "discovers one's passion" - an overworked phrase - how does one determine one's interests? What is the difference between "finding a job" and "discovering one's calling" or vocation? What is "meaningful work?" What is a fulfilling life, and how does that affect one's personal and professional interests? Through a series of exercises and readings, the students will have the opportunity to follow a process of self-discernment, addressing the fundamental questions of "Who am I?" and "Where am I going in life?" The reading list will include selections from such books as Tina Seelig's InGenius and What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20; Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation; Burnett and Evans's Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life; William Deresiewicz's Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life; Mark Edmundson's Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education; Anthony Kronman's Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life; Stuart Firestein's Failure: Why Science is So Successful; Matthew Syed's Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from their Mistakes but Some Do; Bo Bronson's What Should I Do with My Life? and Plato's Alcibiades I. Group creativity exercises, drafting a failure résumé, sketching out several "Odyssey Plans" and writing personal reflection papers are part of the course.